Downtown student donates bone marrow

(Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ferraro)
Health solutions senior Nicholas Ferraro donated bone marrow to a 62-year-old patient in December, three years after signing up to be in the donor registry. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ferraro)

Nicholas Ferraro sat in a chair for 13 hours with a metal needle stuck in his left arm. Fatigue set in, but he said it was worth it. After he was finished, a 62-year-old patient would be receiving his bone marrow.

Ferraro never thought giving bone marrow was anything special until a patient cried in gratitude the day he donated in December, Cathi Caparella, his mother, said.

“It’s not a big deal to him,” she said. “He thinks everyone would do it if someone needs help, but I think that moment was humbling for him.”

Ferraro’s journey as a bone marrow donor began in October 2010 at London’s Run in Queen Creek, Ariz. The health solutions senior filled out a sheet and gave a cheek swab, which put him in the Be the Match donor registry, he said. Three years later, he found out he was a match.

He went through various procedures such as X-rays and blood tests to make sure he was healthy enough to donate. Once he was cleared, he received five daily shots that created more bone marrow in his bones prior to the donation date in December, Ferraro said.

Ferraro said his mom was an “influential” — a supportive person in his journey as a bone marrow donor. Caparella recalled giving Ferraro a heating pad and letting him lie down in her bed whenever his muscles ached from the medicine.

His mother was there for him after his donation, and Ferraro was there for his mother when members of his family died.

Ferraro’s father died when he was 13 months old. In November 2011, his older brother, Michael Ferraro, was shot and killed while riding his bike to work, his mother said.

After Ferraro’s older brother died, Caparella said her son did a lot for her and his three younger sisters. He cooked for his sisters when his mother was working and helped her sell their house in Queen Creek, Ferraro said.

“I needed to be there for them, and that was the way things had to be done,” Ferraro said. “They were my priority before anything else.”

Caparella said those deaths strongly influenced her son’s desire to help people. She said he was always sweet, but after losing his brother, it became more evident.

Ferraro said it was an influential moment in his life. It made him concerned about other people’s needs before his own, he said.

Ferraro is also a peer leader with ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

“He’s only 21 years old and he’s accomplished so much,” said Jacquelyn Ries, an academic success coordinator with the College of Health Solutions. “He’s literally an angel on earth and I get to treasure every moment I have at work with him.”

Ries said she supported Ferraro when he was donating bone marrow to someone he didn’t know.

Both Ries and Caparella can picture Ferraro as a person that will work to help others in the future, whether that be as a therapist or as a physician.

“One time Nick told me ‘You know Mom, I’d be happy to go to a third-world country and live as part of the Peace Corps and doctor there,’” Caparella said.

Ferraro said he still thinks it would be a great experience for himself and it would be an honor for him to help people. The location does not matter to him as long as they need help, he said.

“I’d describe my life as fun, directed and changing because it’s going in a direction, but that direction is always changing,” Ferraro said.

Contact the reporter at